This year has been rough. It would seem that the bah-humbugs this season would be warranted. But are they?
It’s reasonable we are weary and worn from political, social, world issues against the backdrop of a pandemic that’s driven an undercurrent of uncertainty every day.
What is also true, however, is that globally, there is a trajectory of rather good news that gets neglected at our dinner table talk. Children deaths under age 5 fell by nearly half since a decade ago, new infections of HIV are declining, tuberculosis cases are declining, access to safe drinking water is on the rise.
There are lots of reasons that these are not top topics over coffee, of course, yet one nugget that we parents must cop to is our rising trajectory to resist…hope. Good news. Legitimate material changes for the better in the world around us.
We parents wouldn’t want to say so out loud, but, sinking our teeth into good news that does not fit a narrative of girding our loins for the next shoe to drop? Oddly, it’s a tough step to take. Life is hard. Wearisome. It is unpredictable and fiercely unrelenting. We would like to prepare for the worst rather than park ourselves on good outcomes that should develop our view of the world.
That is sad. Especially since we are inevitably training our kids up by our behavior to de facto mimic our think-the-worst-of-the-world posture.
Things Can Be Different this season!
It doesn’t have to be that way. Take Scripture’s Hannah for instance. She’s praying and weeping and Eli thinks what of her? The worst.
“Eli, thinking she was drunk, said to her, ‘How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Sober up from your wine!’”
Calm down, Eli.
“’No, my lord!’ Hannah answered. ‘I am an unhappy woman. I have had neither wine nor liquor; I was only pouring out my heart to the lord. Do not think your servant a worthless woman; my prayer has been prompted by my deep sorrow and misery.’” (1 Sam 1:9-28)
Eli wanted to think the worst? Hannah wasn’t having it.
Not that that diminished the truth of the situation. She was miserable. Life is still hard. We ready ourselves for a tough life because life is tough. Hannah’s certainly was. We are not called as parents to train our kids up as Pollyanna’s. It is not ours to paint life better than it is; we are to represent life as it actually is, and as Eli reflected back in times of yore and global stats reflects in times of right now, the job of reflecting life as it actually is requires course correcting ourselves off the curmudgeon trail.
In fact, it may be even more serious than that. In his 2005 commencement speech, modern philosopher David Foster Wallace was bemoaning this very notion – that we in the West have grown cynical in a way that blinds us to what is right in front of our faces. Although not a believer, Wallace makes the sage point that losing ones grip like this gets us off track not just in an attitude, but nudges us all the way over into what we religious folk call: idol worship. “Everybody worships,” Wallace said, and you better pick wisely or else what you worship “will eat you alive.”
True enough. Hannah could see something like this brewing in her circumstances with her husband and her inability to bear a child and her weary, broken heart. She would weep. She refused to eat. Until, she rose.
“Hannah rose after one such meal at Shiloh, and presented herself before the Lord…”
Her circumstances had not changed. At all. Yet, she decided that this sorrow would not swallow her whole. And, looking it straight in the face like that gave her a more telling view of who God is in the midst of our pain, how he will direct our steps and what she could do in her circumstance to begin engaging change.
In this season, we parents can demonstrate to our kids what “Hannah rose” can look like in our modern lives. Yes, life is hard. Yes, we are not wrong to feel weary. And also, yes, we can, as Hannah, rise up, present ourselves before the Lord and engage change. It’s a perfect season to do so, since that very Lord is about to enter stage left in a sweet bundle and manger with songs and lights that will flood our senses with messages of, “Have hope, for he has come!”
All of us should have hope, for He has come. We want to let our kids know that his body of believers are willing to systematically witness to a hurting world what Jesus’ birth and ultimate resurrection can do for a world in pain. We should rejoice this season!
Hope doesn’t have the same cheering gallery as cynicism. Let’s show our kids how to rise like Hannah in even the littlest ways this Christmas season.
He wishes we would.
Janelle Alberts is a freelance writer and has written for Christianity Today and RELEVANT online pubs. Her first book, Honest Answers: Exploring God Questions With Your Tween, preps parents on how to tackle hard questions with their tweens using pithy Q&A’s and can be foundhere.